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It’s more important than ever to encourage kids to play outdoors and have fun instead of letting them stay cooped up inside the house and spend all their time in front of the screen. This is where community playgrounds come in, providing children with the chance to cultivate their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive skills.

Playground equipment-related injuries are unfortunately all too common, with approximately 200,000 children aged 14 and under requiring emergency department visits each year. Among these injuries, concussions are particularly prevalent. This highlights the crucial importance of prioritizing playground safety and taking proactive measures to ensure the well-being of children at play. Authorities, community stakeholders, and parents all have responsibilities to make sure playground injuries can be minimized, if not avoided altogether.

This checklist serves as a guide to help keep community playgrounds safe for kids. It contains a list of things that need to be considered by different stakeholders in community playgrounds, from park staff to parents.

Relevant Statistics

The Importance of Playground Safety

Playgrounds play an important role in shaping the health and well-being of kids. These areas provide a space for kids to gather, enjoy the fresh air, and take part in exciting physical activities that can enhance their motor skills. The prevalence of playground-related injuries means that safety must be prioritized. This includes taking a look at faulty playground equipment, uneven surfaces, and other factors that can put children in danger.

Ensuring safety is paramount when designing a playground, as it helps mitigate accidents and injuries. Taking proactive steps is crucial in promoting playground safety, such as regularly inspecting equipment to ensure suitability for children's age and abilities. Parents also have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their children in community playgrounds.

Playground equipment should be made from durable and safe materials. There should be soft landings throughout the space to cushion the fall. It may also be worth considering installing safety paddings on the frame of the equipment.

Purpose of Community Playground Safety Checklist

Outdoor play areas must be checked for safety. This is where a safety checklist comes in handy. Whether it is a community playground or a space for play at school, a safety checklist is a must when it comes to keeping outdoor spaces safe for kids.

Having a checklist in place will give you important reminders during regular evaluations. It is also very important in the designing and building stage. You will know exactly what you need to check and ensure that playgrounds are properly functioning. A checklist will help you conduct safety inspections with little to no impediments.

Checklist for Park Staff

Park staff are responsible for the maintenance and smooth operation of community playgrounds. They are often hands-on when it comes to inspecting the equipment and ensuring the surroundings are clean and protected.

Equipment Inspection

When inspecting the equipment, the park staff has to consider several factors. This checklist will ensure you won’t miss a thing when doing an equipment inspection.

Are There Damages in Playground Equipment?

There may be bending, cracks, rusting, or breakage in components. You may start by looking at the wooden slides, for example, and making sure there are no wood splinters where hands and legs touch.

Is There Proper Signage Installed Around the Area?

It is important that playground equipment contain signage that lets children and supervising adults know which play areas are age-appropriate. There should also be park rules and contact information that can be easily checked.

Is the Equipment in the Play Areas Properly Installed and Anchored?

You have to check for broken anchors and supports as they may lead to injuries if missed. You also need to check the chains on swings to make sure they are securely attached.

Are There Sharp Edges or Protruding Bolts?

There may be loose nuts, bolts, and caps that need thorough checking. You have to make sure that there are no protruding bolts with sharp edges.

Is the Community Playground Accessible to Children of All Abilities?

This means checking the space, surface, and pathways to determine whether they are age-appropriate.

Maintenance and Cleanliness

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Community playgrounds bring a lot of kids together. Since children are more susceptible to diseases, there is a great need to ensure that play areas where they spend a lot of time are well-maintained and properly cleaned to protect their health and guarantee their safety.

Are the Play Areas Regularly Cleaned and Disinfected?

Children use playground equipment often, and the surfaces are bound to get dirty, especially with everyday use. It is important to do regular cleaning and disinfection.

Is There Proper Drainage and an Easy Means to Remove Standing Water?

Poor drainage areas can hold water during the rainy season. This can be a cause of accidents and illnesses if not properly addressed.

Are the Litter and Debris Removed after the Playground Construction

Children may inadvertently step on protruding nails, exposed footing, and other slipping hazards. It is important to check if those are totally removed.

Supervision and Adult Responsibilities

Park staff must ensure that community playgrounds are properly supervised. They need to take on adult responsibilities that involve looking after the children and being prepared in case of emergencies.

Are There Adults Assigned to Closely Monitor and Supervise the Children?

To make sure the kids are safe while playing, adults in the park need to closely supervise them. This will prevent untoward accidents and injuries. Children must adhere to the rules and stick to play areas that are appropriate for their age.

Do You Have a First Aid Kid and Other Preparations for Emergency Situations?

Accidents cannot be totally avoided in community playgrounds. It is important that park staff have the necessary first aid kits at their disposal in case of emergencies. They must know how to give first aid to injured children while waiting for emergency responders.

Adult Supervision

At the heart of responsible parenting is the need for parents to supervise their children. This applies just as much outside the home, like in public playgrounds. Parents play the role of helping facilitate a play environment that is safe and promotes kids’ physical, emotional, and mental development. This environment also helps develop the parent-child bond.

A line has to be drawn, however, between supervising and micromanaging/hovering over the kids. Play, after all, is meant to foster kids’ development, and being overprotective can stifle this instead. Here are some key starting points to consider when it comes to supervision:

  • Is your kid the only one in the playground area at the time, or are there other kids?
  • Are other kids in the playground also being supervised by other adults?
  • Are you looking out for any behavior/interaction that can be dangerous or harmful?
  • Are any kids having any difficulty with a particular activity/being left out by other kids?
  • Are any kids wandering into areas (in or around the playground area) where they shouldn’t be in?
  • Are you also looking out for adults who seem out of place in the area or adults who may pose harm to any of the kids in the playground?

Age-Appropriate Play

As they grow, kids develop in stages both physically and mentally, and there are certain activities that are still beyond their reach. It follows then that kids’ physical limitations determine the type of activity (and play equipment) they can safely use.

A manufacturer of well-designed playground equipment takes the developmental needs of particular age groups into account in designing specific heights, materials and surfaces, and other features that help reduce the risk of injury. This checklist by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is a good starting point for spotting hazards and ensuring a safely built playground area.

Starting off from the CPSC checklist, here are some key points to look out for:

  • Are the playground areas separated according to age (toddlers, five and up, etc.)?
  • Are there appropriate signs on playground equipment for supervising adults to indicate the appropriate age for certain playground equipment?
  • Are there any sharp corners, edges, or protrusions on any of the playground equipment that can catch on kids’ clothes or cause injury?
  • Is there any bit of padding or special surface that may need to be fixed?
  • Are there any kids playing on equipment they may be too young for?
  • Are there any older kids who may be letting younger kids play in equipment that they’re too young for?

Proper Attire

There’s hardly any shame in wanting to dress kids up to look good or look cool, but when it comes to picking kids’ clothes for the playground, there are other more important factors that help ensure a safe and enjoyable time.

Style choices are entirely up to you (and your budget), but here are some safety and comfort-related points to consider:

  • Is the clothing too thin, or can it provide extra protection, such as in the knees and elbows?
  • Does the clothing limit or restrict your kid’s movement? Some clothing may end up restricting the full movement of kids’ arms and legs, for example, and the kids end up being unable to properly skip, step, or reach for things, potentially causing them harm.
  • Does any clothing limit or restrict your kid’s vision?
  • Is the clothing comfortable or appropriate for the weather? Pick clothing for the current conditions. On warmer days, pick clothes that breathe better or wick away sweat, and pick warm clothes for cooler days.
  • Is the clothing too loose, or are there any bits that stick out too much? Kids can trip on clothes that are too loose, and unnecessary loops, buckles, or frills can catch on playground equipment.

Sun Protection

Some sun exposure is good, especially since it helps our bodies make vitamin D3, but too much time under the sun without the proper protection can lead to all sorts of short and long-term negative health effects. To be on the safe side when out on the playground, consider the following when it comes to sun protection for both you and your kids:

  • Should you be out on the playground with your kid at all? Check the time. Maybe noon isn’t the most ideal time to be out and about in your area, and it may be better to go out earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon when the sunlight isn’t as harsh.
  • Are you and your kid properly dressed? Try to strike a balance between comfort and sun protection. Don’t forget to bring hats and umbrellas and, maybe, any appropriate eyewear too.
  • Did you put on sunscreen? We think mostly of the beach when we talk about sunscreen, but sunscreen is a good extra measure of protection. Lots of brands are out on the market, but try to look for those that have the right SPF, don’t come off easily from sweat, and don’t irritate the skin, among other factors.


All that time spent playing means kids end up getting sweaty. And with kids being kids caught up in all that playing, they are also likely to forget to have a sip of water. Keeping hydrated is important, especially on hot days, to prevent dehydration and, in the worst case, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Did You Bring Any Fluids with You?

It’s safe to say not all drinks are created equal. You can never go wrong with a couple of flasks of water, but if you’re thinking of bringing along other drinks like juices or anything with a lot of sugar, make sure that you keep your intake of these as low as you can. A high-sugar diet, after all, has its own set of negative health effects, especially for kids.

Are You and Your Kid Keeping Hydrated?

The general starting point is for adults to drink around eight glasses of water a day, with some extra if you’re sweating or doing anything strenuous, and kids should be kept on top of their daily intake too. This handy reference from the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) is a good starting point for kids’ daily water intake and for identifying potential signs of dehydration and heat stress.


Communication is key to a safe and enjoyable time in the playground, and it is important for parents, their kids, and any playground staff/authorities to constantly keep communication channels open.

  • Are you and your kid within seeing and hearing distance of each other? Supervision also requires distance to facilitate play, but maintaining the right seeing and hearing distance ensures you can easily hear your kid/kids if they call out to you or see if they’re signaling anything, especially in emergencies.
  • Are you asking your kid the right questions, or are they trying to tell you something? Asking the right questions lets you pick up any needs a kid may not be communicating (aside from any visual cues). Meanwhile, some kids may be in trouble but cannot put things into words properly, so be on the lookout for these too.
  • Are any playground staff close by? If a playground has any attendees, staff, or authorities, make sure they’re within reach.

Emergency Plan

Emergencies can happen anywhere, and the playground is no exception. It’s a good habit to put together a basic emergency plan that goes beyond dialing 911. It need not be detailed, and here are some points to start off on that can be useful for the playground:

  • Do you know the nearest clinic or hospital from the playground?
  • Have you familiarized yourself with the playground area’s entry and exit points in case you need to leave in a hurry?
  • Have you and your kid (if they’re old enough) agreed on what to do if you lose sight of each other, such as going to a meeting place or making any other signal?
  • Are you up-to-speed on your first aid skills? Beyond treating minor cuts and bruises, knowing the Heimlich maneuver in case of choking is important.
  • Do you know if the playground has law-enforcement visibility?
  • Are first responders able to reach the playground area quickly?

Final Thoughts

Safety is a constant responsibility. In the context of playground safety, it is a continuous process that involves playground staff and parents and, ultimately, the community at large and covers the preparation, actual use, and maintenance stages.

Aside from being a continuous and comprehensive process, playground safety is necessarily detailed, if the goal is nurturing the proper environment for play, leisure, and interaction that fosters the right physical, mental, and emotional development in kids.


  • Children’s Hospital of Orange County. 2023. “How Much Water Should Kids Drink?”
  • Department of Health. n.d. “Choking Prevention for Children.”,year%20for%20food%2Dchoking%20injuries
  • National Recreation and Park Association. n. d. “Statistics of Play.” Parks and Recreation Magazine.
  • National Safety Council. n. D. “Playground Safety.”
  • US Consumer Product Safety Commission. n. D. “Public Playground Safety Checklist.”`ound-safety-checklist#:~:text=Make%20sure%20surfaces%20around%20playground,all%20directions%20from%20play%20equipment

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